Inside the Actors Studio is such an irresistible vortex of time wasting on Youtube for people with even the faintest interest in Hollywood. The biggest names in the business drop by and are candid about themselves to a degree unimaginable in your average press tours. The stars are also willing to engage in tomfoolery at the host James Lipton’s bidding, most famous of which is this clip of Kevin Spacey doing impressions that has almost 8m views. Another memorable moment is Anthony Hopkins bringing to life two of acting’s greatest ever legends.
I searched for Russell Crowe’s appearance having rather liked his role in Man of Steel, a reminder after some middling movies and a couple of minor roles – Les Miserables notwithstanding – that he remains a compelling screen presence. Watching the interview, I was struck by how willing he is to directly engage the audience, not just to talk about himself, but to actually provide them with advice and insight. Although Inside the Actors Studio is set up so that it has a facade of an acting school, surprisingly few guests treat it as such. Not that they are being insincere, but just by natural reaction the stars in the hotseat approach it like more or less like a straight interview, not least because Lipton has a formidably well-researched set of questions which he relentlessly puts forward to his subjects. From Robert De Niro to Natalie Portman to Liam Neeson and many others, the stars don’t venture further than simply explaining their approach to specific roles and touching on their views on the craft, and they usually do it while addressing Lipton, not the audience. But Crowe’s appearance is great in that he seems genuinely interested in imparting his knowledge and experience to the students, and if there’s a relevant question he always gives his answer while looking at the audience. The answers are practical and down to earth, giving the impression that he is speaking for, as well as to, the students. You do detect a slight trace of the unfulfilled film student in Crowe, as when he says “I never went to school like you guys are, to learn the job… While I was trying to save money to go to the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia, I ended up gathering all this experience, which meant that by the time I had enough money to go to school, I really didn’t need to go to school anymore.” But his advice is heartfelt and germane: “I absolutely know that the more you put into the character, the more it’s apparent on the screen.” Whether or not you’re a fan of Crowe, it’s well worth a watch.